Mario Sifuentez and Denise Loya
Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mateo Murillo Lamas was born on September 21, 1916, in Valparaíso, Zacatecas, México; when he was roughly twenty years old, he moved to México, Distrito Federal; in 1942, while there, he was taken at gunpoint by Mexican officials and transported by train the United States to enlist in the bracero program; he continued voluntarily working as a bracero through the mid-fifties, primarily in the cotton and lettuce fields of Arizona, California, and Colorado; in 1989, he became a U.S. citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Murillo vividly recalls being in México, Distrito Federal, in 1942, when he was taken at gunpoint by Mexican officials and loaded into a train; there were roughly one thousand men aboard, and by the time they reached California, there were only two hundred men, at most, because so many had jumped off the train; as he was about to be transported to his worksite, American officials asked if he would be willing to take arms and help the United States should the need arise; he agreed and signed a paper that put him on a reserve list, but he was never called to action; in spite of his initial recruitment, he continued voluntarily working as a bracero through the midfifties, primarily in the cotton and lettuce fields of Arizona, California, and Colorado; he goes on to chronicle the various worksites, living and working conditions, duties, daily routines, treatment, payments, contract renewals, and recreational activities; in addition, he mentions receiving a portion of his salary in the form of stamps that he could use to purchase clothing or shoes according to a rationing schedule; he also comments that in the years following the war braceros were generally not treated as well, because their impending necessity was no longer at issue; moreover, he explains how he was ultimately able to use his previous work history to become a U.S. citizen in 1989; he also asserts that braceros not only supported the economy of both countries, but of the war as well.
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Interview with Mateo Murillo Lamas by Mario Sifuentez and Denise Loya, 2006, "Interview no. 1232," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.